‘Porn lessons’ in schools to address addiction fears?

Jacquie Reid, Ulster Teachers' Union. INCR 39-704-CON
Jacquie Reid, Ulster Teachers' Union. INCR 39-704-CON

‘Porn lessons’ in Northern Ireland schools could help address young people’s fears of addiction, according to a leading educationalist from Coleraine.

Jacquie Reid, deputy general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was speaking as Tony Blair’s old college in Edinburgh becomes the latest there to provide porn awareness classes.

“It is naïve to believe that children won’t either deliberately or accidentally access pornographic images and videos via the internet – and sometimes these can be in the extreme end of the scale,” she said.

“As this isn’t a topic often discussed at home – though that is arguably where it should be raised – there could be an opportunity for education in school.

“Just last year the NSPCC revealed that one in 10 children feared they were addicted to porn so it is vital this area is addressed.

“With access to this material so widely available our children must be educated in how to view it – they must be media-savvy when it comes to pornographic material in the same way we educate them to be media-savvy when it comes to advertising, for instance.

“The more open and honest dialogue we can have with young people about sex – and that has to include porn given its ease of access - the better.

“Children need to be taught, as a form of media literacy, ‘how’ to view these images - images that can create unrealistic body expectations and often convey nothing about real relationships. They need to know how to read these images in context and judge them accordingly.”

The teacher’s union representative went on to point out that young people are surrounded by sexualised images every day on TV, in magazines, on billboards.

She continued: “This is not an easy thing to talk about – it will stir controversy and possibly backlash from some parents who themselves are uneasy with this whole area. But the facts speak for themselves; if children are going to be exposed to porn they need to have the understanding to judge it in context.

“Neither parents nor teachers can police children 24-7 in this age of mobile technology but at least if children have the knowledge they can make the right choices.

“However, once again, it is imperative that if teachers are to tackle these issues they receive the best possible training and support themselves in order to ensure they tackle these subjects from a position of security and confidence.”